Saturday night, the University of North Dakota Hockey team gutted out a 3-2 overtime win against the Air Force Academy Falcons. With the non-conference win, UND improves to 5-1-1.
Here are my three takeaways from the Air Force game.
Defenseman Tucker Poolman continues to impress
Freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman continues to impress on the blue line for UND. So far, Poolman has played solid defensively, and has added an element of physicality that UND didn’t have last season.
Through six games, the rugged defenseman has three goals, tying him for second on the team in goals with fellow defenseman Paul LaDue.
Poolman has been paired with senior defenseman Nick Mattson five of the last six games, and hasn’t looked out-of-place. With his solid play, it’s going to be hard for the UND coaching staff to take him out of the lineup.
On Saturday night, Poolman scored UND’s first goal of the game.
UND leads the nation in shorthanded goals
Currently, UND is ranked eighth in the nation in penalty minutes. To their credit, UND has killed (35/40, 87.5%) of their opponents power plays. With those numbers, UND’s penalty kill is ranked 19th in the nation.
One of themes to emerge this season: UND has scored five shorthanded goals in seven games. Nationally, UND is tied for the lead in shorthanded goals with Minnesota-Duluth. Also, UND is currently leading the Nation is shorthanded goals per game with (.71).
Why are those stats impressive? Last season, UND scored a grand total of four shorthanded goals. Former UND forward Rocco Grimaldi led last year’s team with three shorthanded goals. This season, four players have scored five shorthanded goals.
Still not impressed? Breaking this down further – two of UND’s five shorthanded goals have been game winning goals. Picking through the statistics, I discovered that senior forward Michael Parks has scored three of his seven points on the penalty kill. What’s more shocking, Parks has scored only one point – an assist – on the power play.
For those fans that are wondering, UND’s season record for shorthanded goals is 18, which was accomplished during the historic 1986-87 season. The chances of UND breaking that record this season are slim, however, there are about 29 games remaining in the season to accomplish that feat. So it’s possible, but not likely.
Moving on without Mark MacMillan
On October 24, 2014, senior forward Mark MacMillan entered the non-conference game against the Providence College Friars as UND’s leading scorer.
During the first game against the Providence College, MacMillan was cut by an opponent’s skate late in the second period and left the game. MacMillan didn’t return to the game and on Saturday morning he had surgery to repair a lacerated wrist. MacMillan is out indefinitely and there’s no time-table for his return.
Before the injury, MacMillan was red-hot and had just finished a series where he scored (5g-2a—7pts) and led UND to a series sweep of the Colorado College Tigers. For his efforts, MacMillan was named the NCHC’s Offensive Player of the week.
Since MacMillan’s absence from the lineup, UND has gone 0-11 on the power play. Some have wondered if this is a coincidence? Since MacMillan’s absence the UND coaching staff has been trying different combinations on the power play.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.